Apelin and visfatin: unique "beneficial" adipokines upregulated in obesity?

Med Sci Monit. 2006 Jun;12(6):RA112-9. Epub 2006 May 29.


Recent studies suggest that adipose tissue hormones ("adipokines") are involved in the pathogenesis of various complications of obesity, including hyperlipidemia, diabetes mellitus, arterial hypertension, atherosclerosis, and heart failure. Apelin and visfatin are two recently described adipokines, although they are also synthesized outside adipose tissue. Apelin exists in at least three forms, consisting of 13, 17, or 36 amino acids, all originating from a common 77-amino-acid precursor. In the cardiovascular system, apelin elicits endothelium-dependent, nitric oxide-mediated vasorelaxation and reduces arterial blood pressure. In addition, apelin demonstrates potent and long-lasting positive inotropic activity which is preserved even in injured myocardium and is not accompanied by myocardial hypertrophy. Apelin synthesis in adipocytes is stimulated by insulin, and plasma apelin level markedly increases in obesity associated with insulin resistance and hyperinsulinemia. In addition to regulating cardiovascular function, apelin inhibits water intake and vasopressin production. Visfatin, previously recognized as a pre-B cell colony-enhancing factor (PBEF), is abundantly expressed in visceral adipose tissue and is upregulated in some, but not all, animal models of obesity. Preliminary studies suggest that plasma visfatin concentration is also increased in humans with abdominal obesity and/or type 2 diabetes mellitus. Visfatin binds to the insulin receptor at a site distinct from insulin and exerts hypoglycemic effect by reducing glucose release from hepatocytes and stimulating glucose utilization in peripheral tissues. Thus, apelin and visfatin are unique among adipose tissue hormones in that they are upregulated in the obese state and both exert primarily beneficial effects.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apelin
  • Cardiovascular System / drug effects
  • Cytokines / genetics
  • Cytokines / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypothalamo-Hypophyseal System / metabolism
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / genetics
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / metabolism*
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / pharmacology
  • Nicotinamide Phosphoribosyltransferase
  • Obesity / genetics
  • Obesity / metabolism*
  • Rats
  • Up-Regulation
  • Water-Electrolyte Balance


  • APLN protein, human
  • Apelin
  • Cytokines
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Nicotinamide Phosphoribosyltransferase
  • nicotinamide phosphoribosyltransferase, human